Dreams dashed: Lightning season comes to gut-wrenching end
In a sea of red inside United Center, Tampa Bay battled, fought and gutted it out until the very end.
But in the end the magical season and playoff run by the Lightning came to a gut-wrenching end after a 2-0 loss to Chicago in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Duncan Keith, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, scored the opening goal of the game late in the second period to allow the Blackhawks to lift the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years and for the first time on home ice since 1938. Patrick Kane provided the first two-goal lead of the series for either team with 5:14 left in the third period.
Corey Crawford stopped all 24 shots he faced for the Blackhawks while Ben Bishop put forth another strong showing despite battling through injury, finishing with 29 saves to take the loss.
And for the first time all season Tampa Bay lost for a third consecutive game and it came at the most inopportune time to end the Lightning's season as the highest scoring team in the league during the regular season was held to two goals in the final three games.
With the crowd inside the United Center amped up and turning the decibel level to near ear-piercing volume, the Lightning made an early push as Nikita Kucherov - who missed most of Game 5 with an injury - had a partial breakaway chance 2:26 into the game but was chased down from behind by Johnny Oduya. Steven Stamkos would take a slick backhand pass from Valtteri Filppula fire off a shot from the right circle that struck the crossbar and caromed away from danger at 7:50.
But penalty trouble swung momentum away from Tampa Bay and into the Blackhawks favor starting with Cedric Paquette's tripping call at 8:35 and then a roughing call on Brian Boyle at 13:53. Only a Ben Bishop toe save on Teuvo Teravainen's open look from the crease and a pad save on Jonathan Toews following a strong set up from Patrick Kane at 14:09 kept the game scoreless.
Jason Garrison appeared to be staring at an open net off a feed from Kucherov late in the period, but with the puck bouncing it allowed Marian Hossa the chance to block the shot as Garrison had to settle it down with 2:01 left in the period.
Stamkos would find another prime scoring chance in the opening minute as he had a clean breakaway after Paquette flipped the puck up the ice. Stamkos was able to corral the puck, make a stop to get Crawford to drop down but was unable to get enough lift on the puck and wound up shooting it right into Crawford's left pad 58 seconds into the second while his rebound chance also hit Crawford's pad. Rookie Jonathan Drouin, playing in just his sixth postseason game, third in the Final, then set up Anton Stralman for a tap-in chance on the back door, but the puck just missed Stralman's stick for what would have been an easy chance.
Then the Blackhawks took advantage of a sequence of mistakes by Tampa Bay to score the only goal Chicago needed to win the Cup.
A dump down ice failed to get in deep for a defensive change, which allowed the Blackhawks to come down on a rush against a flat-footed group behind the play. Keith would skate into the zone and avoid a check from Paquette to get a shot on goal that was stopped by Bishop. But with Paquette caught with no speed on the failed check attemp, defenseman Andrej Sustr floated to the goal line shadowing Brad Richards. That allowed Keith to swoop in unmarked for a rebound chance that he deposited behind Bishop with 2:47 left in the second period.
With the season on the line, the Lightning made a strong push to start the third period but with the tank almost on empty, Tampa Bay was unable to find the equalizer and saw the season come to an end in bittersweet fashion. The punctuation mark came when Braydon Coburn broke his stick on an easy wrist shot attempt on a cross-ice feed, only to see Chicago finish off a rush the other way as Kane scored his first goal of the Final at 14:46.
The Lightning PerspectiveThe Daily Herald is sharing coverage of the Stanley Cup Final with the Tampa Tribune. This is their coverage of the Lightning.